To say that the past few weeks has been an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. I go from feeling fine, to being gouged, to being diagnosed, to being staged, to being told that I need to start chemo. And all the while still feeling fine (or so I thought). I had been trying to at least mentally align with the fact that my body was going to be flooded with poison to do stuff that was going to make me “better”… even though I was feeling fine. As a pragmatist, I had to make sure that this was my only choice.
My wife and I have learned that it was far from my only choice. Yes, the chemo would have reset my body’s blood factory. But to summarize what I have learned from Dr. Keating: it would be like using a nuclear bomb when all you need is one well-placed sniper round. Chemo is the gold standard when all the indicators fit in the little treatment flow chart as mine did. Keating, though, is at MD Anderson, where flow charts aren’t used. MDA is at the very edge of what is happening right now in cancer research and treatment. While I have “staged” later than early onset, there is no hurry to start *any* treatment because my symptoms are not that advanced and there really is no benefit to starting early. And I have also learned that my very specific flavor of CLL is highly responsive to a targeted monoclonal antibody regimen that I will start in January. It’s not chemo. (Que the chair dancing music…)
As for those symptoms and feeling fine… turns out that I do have a few that I did not recognize. I’ve come to learn that getting horizontal and passing out in front of the TV at 8:30 is not just a sign of getting older. And I’ve learned that drenching night sweats are not the result of eating too much Thai food (although I’m sure that doesn’t help). Turns out that these are both symptoms of an overworked immune system. When the body works hard, fatigue and heat are the by-products. And being tired all the time is not “normal”. So I take an Aleve when I get the night sweats and doc has put me on Ritalin LA to combat fatigue.
All of you who know me and my already hyper approach to life can start giggling now. Yesterday was my first go with the pill. I’m pleased to report that I did not feel like taking a nap after a big lunch.